Visiting Hours

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

“Visiting Hours” is the story of Catherine, a young girl unable to sleep as she watches the moonlight slowly wander across her lonely hospital room. The more she thinks about the operation ahead, the harder it is to keep herself calm as the questions swell in her mind. What if the doctors can’t fix what’s wrong? What if she can never go home again? As her panic is about to peak, a mysterious visitor appears who claims to know the answer, but how can Catherine know for sure?

Visiting Hours


Catherine watched as the moonlight crept across the floor and up to the dinner cart where the water pitcher rested. The light shone on the water like a spotlight as the ripples echoed the footsteps of the nurses in the hallway outside. She rolled her head on the pillow and stared at the door. Visiting hours were long over and the late shift had settled everyone down for the night. It was dark and quiet, the time when imaginations flourish.

Catherine was small for eight years old and barely filled any space on the bed. Her skin was pale from lack of sun and her long brown hair had tangled ends from constant chewing. She shivered and pulled up the blanket careful not to disturb the tubes going into her arm. The clear liquid eased her aches but made her tired. All she wanted was to wake up and have this be over, but she was afraid to fall asleep. She turned her head back to the water but the show was over and the moonlight had moved on.

She searched the room looking for another distraction and eyed her Mom who had fallen asleep exhausted in the chair by the window. She hadn’t left Catherine’s side since the accident that left her lifeless from the waist down. She had blamed herself even though it was Catherine who was twirling like a ballerina and fell off the retaining wall. 

A collection of balloons and stuffed animals from family, friends and classmates lined the window. Catherine stared at them for a while, but they only added to the shadows that filled the room. She missed her room, her dog Dusty, and her own bed.

“If you get scared, just close your eyes and picture your own bedroom,” Catherine’s Dad always said before he left. “And before you know it, you’ll be there.”

“Dad, I’m fine,” Catherine answered. Being brave was a piece of cake when others were around, but when she was alone her fears came alive like monsters under the bed.  What if she has to stay in this hospital bed forever? What if she can never dance again? What if she will never go home? She glanced around the room as if looking for the answer but all she saw were the flashing lights of the machines like a thousand watching eyes.

Catherine laid back into the pillow, closed her eyes and tried to picture her bedroom at home. She figured as long as she could see it, she would go home again for sure. But after four weeks, it was getting harder. Every day was fuzzier than the last. Every missing detail only fed the fear that swelled inside her.

Okay, I can do this, she thought as she fought to stay awake long enough to finish. I know my walls are pink and the carpeting is yellow.  My bed is white with pink and yellow flower sheets. On my nightstand is my Ballerina clock and of course next to that is the… is the…

Catherine frowned. What’s next to my clock? She had remembered it so clearly yesterday, but now her mind was blank. Catherine scrunched her eyes tighter. “I know I can remember!” she said as she held her breath and tried again. Still nothing. She started to panic as she opened her eyes and spied the moonlight on the wall. “Oh, please I have to remember. I’ll do anything just to go home again!”

“Is easy to remember if you not try so hard,” A strange voice said as someone stepped up to the bed. Catherine raised her eyes. It was an old woman with wrinkled skin and long white hair tied back with a thick red scarf. Her eyes were magnified like an owl behind heavy-rimmed glasses. Her face was dark gold with deep lines that crisscrossed in odd directions and she had a small, plump body that somehow made the room brighter.

“Who are you?” Catherine asked, her eyes wide.

“You call me Aunt Nadja, yes? I’m to check on you.” Her voice was rich with a heavy exotic accent that was somehow easy to understand. “Were you having troubles now?”  

“I can’t remember what’s next to my clock at home.”

“Ah. Is all fine. Easier to let your memories find you than you find them,” Nadja said as she sat down in a chair next to the bed. Her dress was long and thick and swirled with rich dark yellows, reds and greens that reminded Catherine of an old quilt her grandmother used to keep them cozy when they visited.  

“Are you a nurse?” Catherine asked as she looked into Nadja’s warm, sad eyes. Her plump cheeks and round face looked familiar as if Catherine had known her from somewhere else.

“I am, how you say, friend.” Nadja said as she set a thick cloth satchel with red and green patches on the floor. “And how you are feeling?”

“Okay,” Catherine said, studying the old woman. She was happy for the company but wondered what Nurse Susan would say if she came in.

“Mama and Papa watching you okay, yes?”

“Yeah, Mom’s asleep. Dad had to take my older brother and sister home,” Catherine replied.

Aunt Nadja’s head nodded as if she couldn’t control it.

Catherine glanced at her mother who remained asleep. The doctor said this would be the last operation and she would be fine and could go home soon, but Catherine wasn’t so sure. She could tell by the way he would whisper to her parents. Then her mother would leave the room. When she finally came back she would just sit and stroke Catherine’s hair without saying a word.

Catherine looked up. “Aunt Nadja?”


“Why did this have to happen? Did I do something wrong?”

“Oh no, not at all… It just happens sometimes,” she paused as if about to say something else, but refrained.

“I was going to be a dancer, but now I’m not getting better, am I?” Catherine said as the fear swelled up again. “The doctors can’t fix me and I’ll never go home. That’s why Mom has to go and cry!”

Aunt Nadja looked at Catherine with her comforting eyes. “Catherine, is okay being frightened.” She then leaned forward and spoke softer, “But can I let you in on secret?”

Catherine sniffled and nodded. 

“Sometimes, even best doctors need help,” she paused. “There is another way.”

“There is?” Catherine replied.

“Yes,” Aunt Nadja said as she looked around the room. “Magic,” she whispered.

“Magic?” Catherine said. She used to believe in magic – angels and fairies and stuff like that. It’s not that she stopped believing, but as she got older it just didn’t seem to matter anymore, like a forgotten toy on a shelf.

“Ah, yes, magic all around, do you know?” Nadja said as she reached down for her satchel.

Catherine shook her head as she glanced around the plain, white room expecting to see witches appear or a wizard waving a wand.

“Well, is truth,” Nadja said as she opened her sack, rummaged through it and pulled out an object wrapped in the same patched cloth.

“Some say moon is magic.”

“The moon?” Catherine said. She spied the moonlight creeping up onto her bed. She never thought the moon was magic, but it made sense. Magic always happened at night when the moon was watching high overhead. Besides, how else could the moon always follow her around wherever she went?

“Oh yes,” Nadja smiled, deepening the wrinkles in her face. “And when moon shines full like this night, magic things happen.” Nadja unwrapped the object and cradled it carefully in the cloth.

Catherine stared at the object. It was gray and smooth and slightly smaller than the size of her palm. 

“This is healing charm, yes? It comes from same place as moonlight. If you hold it and believe, it will make you well.”

“Really?” she said as she started chewing on a clump of her hair. “That can make me better?”

“Yes,” Nadja smiled.

“If that’s true, then how come the doctors don’t use it?”

“Because doctors need know why things happen.” she answered. “With magic, you need just believe.”

Nadja moved the charm into the path of the moonlight and Catherine watched as the stone changed from grey to white as if soaking up the light. Catherine had said she would do anything, but this seemed, well, impossible. Catherine looked up at Aunt Nadja as she stared at the charm intently. Something about the old woman seemed amazing, like perhaps she was a witch herself. Catherine hesitated but finally reached out and Nadja placed the charm in her palm and closed her hand around it.

“You hold this and will see, everything is fine.”

To Catherine’s surprise, the charm was warm and tingly. “It feels weird.”

“Ah, good,” Aunt Nadja replied.

Catherine could feel the warmth traveling up her arm and through her body. She thought about her last dance. She had always pretended the retaining wall was a stage and she was a famous ballerina doing her solo. She had done the twirl so many times but this time it did not end with imaginary applause. After a minute, the stone cooled and Catherine opened her hand. The object was gray again. Nadja grasped the stone carefully with the cloth and rewrapped it.

Catherine settled back wiggling her fingers as she examined her hand. “My starry sky nightlight!” she exclaimed.

“What is this?” Nadja asked as she put the stone back into her satchel.

“That’s what’s next to my clock at home,” she explained.

Nadja smiled a crooked smile. “See, already getting better.” 

Catherine smiled.

"And maybe one day you will dance on moon, yes?”

Catherine laughed. “Yeah, right.”

“I need to go now,” Nadja said as she stood up and straightened her back.

“Aw, can’t you stay?” she pleaded as she pushed down her blankets to cool off.

“It would be nice, but others are needing me.” Nadja said. As she turned to leave, she paused and turned to Catherine. “But remember, you must believe.”

“Oh, I do,” Catherine smiled as she looked up, but the old lady had gone.

Catherine closed and opened her eyes again and stared at the moonlight shining on the spot where she had been standing. But once again, the show was over and the moonlight moved on.

The door creaked open. “Are you talking in here?” Nurse Susan said softly.

Catherine was startled by the voice. “Sorry, I must have been dreaming.”

“Mm-mmm,” Nurse Susan uttered as she entered the room. “Boy, that moon is bright. Do you want me to close the shades?”

“No thanks, I don’t mind,” Catherine replied.

She watched as the nurse checked the IV. “Susan? Can… I ask you something?”


“Do you believe in magic?”

“Magic?” she said. “Why do you ask?”

“It was… just something someone said,” Catherine replied.

“Well, I don’t believe in such things,” Nurse Susan said. “Now you need to get some sleep.”

“I know, I’m just a little scared.”

“Maybe some music will help.” Susan turned on a small radio by the bed. It was playing a classical piece, reminding Catherine of the amazing ballets she had seen on stage.

“There, now get some rest. Tomorrow is a big day,” the nurse said as she picked up the water pitcher and headed towards the door.

“Okay.” Catherine replied and closed her eyes. As she listened to the music, she imagined what it would be like to dance on the moon, no spacesuit of course. The white ground would be her stage, the stars would be the twinkling spotlights and the whole Earth would be the audience. But the best part was in the low gravity her performance would be spectacular. As the music swelled in the speakers, she could see herself stretching out her arms and pointing her toes in a perfect slow motion pirouette. It was nothing short of magical.  

“Oh my God!” she heard Nurse Susan say as the water pitcher hit the floor. Catherine opened her eyes to see her own feet moving in time with the music.

Submitted: September 29, 2015

© Copyright 2022 rlheidorn. All rights reserved.

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